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What is National Library Workers Day? Part II

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It isn’t just librarians who work in libraries. At a large library or a research library, one might find an archivist or archivists working alongside a librarian or librarians. They are on the same professional level.

Many of the workers one meets in a library are probably library technicians rather than librarians. A librarian typically has a bachelor’s degree in library science or public history and a master’s degree in library science (the M.L.S. degree) from a program that (in the U.S. and Canada) must be accredited by the American Library Association (A.L.A.).

Historically, library catalogers wrote catalog cards and maintained the card catalogue. However, for more than fifteen years, catalogers have entered new acquisitions, be they books, C.D.s, D.V.D.s, or other materials, into searchable online catalogues and copied information from physical catalogue cards into such databases.

A major trend catalogers have to deal with are is the rise of electronic union catalogues that represent the holdings of multiple libraries, such as the four Local Library System Automation Programs (L.L.S.A.P.) Catalogues supported by the Reaching Across Illinois Library System (R.A.I.L.S.). Increasingly, vendors supply records.

A library technician is a skilled paraprofessional with a bachelor’s degree in library science (or at least a certificate or associate’s degree from a junior college or the like), trained to perform the library’s day-to-day functions. The librarian sets policy the library technician carries out. Under the direction of a librarian, library technicians, library assistants, library technical indexers, circulation assistants, and reference aides catalogue new library acquisitions; help library patrons to access library resources (books, films, photographs, maps, etc.); issue library books and other materials for circulation; make interlibrary loans; assist librarians in giving tours; assist librarians in providing children's and other specialized library programs; process the checkout and return of books and other library materials; and conduct manual and on-line reference searches for library patrons.

At a large institution, a senior library technician may be in charge of junior library technicians and student workers, and volunteers. At a small institution, one may only encounters library technicians on the floor. Library technicians, assistants, etc. have the same status as archival technicians and assistants.

The A.L.A. supports the Library Support Staff Certification (L.S.S.C.) Program, which was developed by grants from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services (I.M.L.S.), and it is managed by the Allied Professional Association.

The L.S.S.C. began accepting applications for L.S.S.C. candidacy in January 2010. The L.S.S.C. Program was inspired by the Western Council of State Libraries Library Practitioner Certificate Program.

The work of placing books on bookshelves is done by someone called a shelver, a library employee who does not have a M.L.S. degree and does nothing else than place books (as well as DVDs and CDs) on shelves (and occasionally give directions to library patrons). This is the bottom of the pecking order in a library, but just as armies can’t function without infantrymen and retail stores can’t function without cashiers and stock boys, libraries can’t function without shelvers.

Former Downers Grove Public Library Director Christopher Bowen explained in a blog post a few years ago that people who want to volunteer at the Downers Grove Public Library frequently ask to shelve books, and “They are always surprised when we explain that we do use volunteers for a variety of tasks, but we only use trained, paid employees to shelve library materials.”

In some libraries, the entry level job is that of “page.” Yes, that’s the same title carried by little boys who carried messages in medieval courts, the errand boys (and girls) in the Canadian House of Commons and U.S. Congress.

The job titles page and shelver are not interchangeable, though a page may be a shelver, because some libraries will place a modifier before the word page to indicate the person is doing technical work that would be done by one of the paraprofessionals mentioned above at a larger institutions. An example would be “processing page.” Another example would be “cataloging and processing page.”

Pages and shelvers need only have high school diplomas or G.E.D.s., though they may have college degrees. At an academic library, they are students of that tertiary school. Shelvers, whether they are being called shelvers or pages, shelve books (as well as D.V.D.s and C.D.s) and verify everything on a shelf is in the correct order, which is called “shelf reading.”

Often, they only work part-time. Many librarians will tell you they worked as shelvers or pages while in college, either at their academic libraries or at public libraries (in college towns or hometowns).

A large library may have a conservator on staff or bring in a conservator as a contract-worker, much like a museum. Most libraries have janitors on staff.

Many medium-to-large-size libraries have one or more computer technicians on staff. Large public libraries and independent research libraries have human resources specialists on staff.

Library Worklife: HR E-News for Today’s Leaders is a publication of the A.L.A.-A.P.A. The newsletter began in January 2004 and is distributed electronically on the second Tuesday of each month. A.L.A. subscribers receive quarterly alerts highlighting the previous months’ articles.

Contributors retain rights on articles printed per the Library Worklife Author Agreement. Library Worklife is a benefit of A.L.A. membership.

If a library has a bookmobile or fleet of bookmobiles, unless the library’s standard operating procedure is to cross-train librarians or paraprofessionals on staff as drivers, there may be one or more drivers on staff.

In a big city, the municipal library system may have deliverymen on staff to bring books and other items back and forth between the central library and branches. A large library such as the central library in a big city or a research library with valuable holdings may have one or more security guards.

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